“Could Andrew Scheer have been elected the leader of a national party if he were a woman with five children including a newborn? “
In an essay in Macleans magazine Rona Ambrose, the previous interim leader of the Conservative party writes about ways to encourage more women to be involved in politics. She says we have to be willing to accept that women regardless of their physical attributes and family compositions are capable of holding government office.
Her comment about Andrew Scheer, the father of five young children and…….. the Conservative party leader who succeeded her, suggests we don’t always think of male and female politicians in the same way. There’s an assumption that mothers of large families with young children might not be the best political candidates, but fathers of similar families are. Ambrose says this reflects not only the obvious practical challenges in such a situation but also ” the real, judgmental, and sexist perceptions that women face in politics. ”
Women with young children should represent us politically. They are in tune with the needs of young Canadian families and their voice is of great importance. What things could we do to encourage and support them so they would not face stereotypical discrimination and so many practical impediments to political service? Should affordable child care with extended hours be offered on Parliament Hill? Should members of Parliament have more flexible working times, additional help with travel expenses so families can be together more often, and assistance with finding schools and housing in Ottawa? Should there be a greater openess to allowing children to be present in their parents’ work place on Parliament Hill? Implementation of some of these changes has already begun as this CTV News article suggests.
These changes will not only benefit women politicians but also support fathers like Andrew Scheer and my own member of Parliament Robert Falcon Ouellette who has five children, so they can share parenting responsibilities more equally with their partners.